POPULAR as milkman, Dr Verghese Kurien, who transformed India from a milk-deficient country to the world’s largest milk producer, passed away on September 9 at Muljibhai Patel Urological Hospital in Nadiad, after a brief illness. He was 90 and is survived by wife Molly Kurien and daughter Nirmala. He was cremated according to Hindu rites at Anand in keeping with a wish he had expressed to his daughter.
His professional life was dedicated to empower the Indian farmers through co-operatives. Dr Kurien was conferred upon the Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan, World Food Prize and the Magsaysay Award.
Born into a Syrian Christian family in Calicut (Kerala) in November 1921, Dr Kurien was sent to Anand in 1949 as a young dairy engineer under a bond, which he had to sign when he travelled to the US to study on a government scholarship. The bond period was over in months but Kurien stayed back for his entire life. It was under Kurien’s leadership that small-town Anand became the milk capital of India with institutions like the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) and the Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA).
The first dairy cooperative union in Gujarat was formed in 1946 with just two villages as members. Today, the co-operative has 16,100 member unions, with 3.2 million members pouring milk into GCMMF twice a day. India’s milk procurement has graduated from 20 million metric tonnes annually in 1960s to 122 million metric tonnes in 2011.
President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, among many other dignitaries, sent their condolences. In his message senior BJP leader LK Advani said it was due to the efforts of Dr Kurien that our country was able to become one of the major milk producing nations in the world. In addition, his exceptional contribution to agriculture and rural development were nothing short of extraordinary. He was the icon of India’s co-operative movement and his role will be remembered for generations to come. The demise of Dr Kurien, a conscientious industrialist, has left behind a void that would be very difficult to fill. May God give peace to his departed soul and give strength to his grief stricken family.
Describing the life of Dr Kurien as ‘One life–One mission’ Gujarat Chief Minister said though Dr Kurien did not take birth in Gujarat, he created a place in the hearts of Gujaratis. His demise will leave every speech-less animal tearful.
Former BJP president Shri Rajnath Singh said Dr Kurien was one of the leading lights of the co-operative movement in India. He ushered in a ‘White Revolution’ in the country and transformed India from a milk deficient country to a self-reliant nation. His association with ‘Amul’ in particular and the agro-marketing sector in general brought tremendous benefits to our rural economy. With Dr. Kurien’s death we have lost a visionary who changed people’s perception about the efficiency of co-operative sector. During my tenure as Union Agriculture Minister I saw his passion to work tirelessly for the welfare of weaker sections of our society. (FOC)